Westminster Government recognises need for caution over conversion therapy ban

13, April 2022

Last week, a Westminster Government spokesman confirmed that the Government “will carry out separate work to consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further”.

This came after Boris’s announcement on 31 March that a ban would not include ‘transgender’ conversion therapy was met with a backlash from LGBT activists.

In a statement published on 5 April, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said:

"I think it is right to take the approach that we have which is to ban conversion therapy for LGB but to take a much more sort of sensitive approach when it comes to trans."

Javid points to the Cass interim report, which identified the need to have open discussion about the possible causes of gender dysphoria, as one of the reasons for the Westminster Government not pressing ahead with a ban on ‘transgender’ conversion therapy:

"In my mind is, for example, the recent report by Dr Hilary Cass, she’s one of the most experienced paediatricians in this country, she just published an interim report just a few weeks ago.

"She talked about how the children and young people when they say they have gender dysphoria, it is right for medical experts to be able to question that and to determine what the cause might be, is it a genuine case of gender identity dysphoria?”

His point is that a conversion therapy ban must not outlaw asking such questions.

Javid also points out that treatments such as electroshock therapy, which are often cited by activists as justification for a conversion therapy ban, already "count as abuse" and "would already be against the law".

Scotland and Wales

But despite Westminster’s recognition of the complexities of including trans in a conversion therapy ban, the devolved administrations are continuing to double down on the trans aspect of a ban.

The Scottish Government has previously promised that a ban would include transgender conversion therapy, and the SNP's equalities spokesperson at Westminster, Kirsten Oswald, said the decision to exclude trans conversion therapy from a ban in England is "especially disappointing". Surprisingly, they have been backed in recent days by the Scottish Conservatives. Tory gender reform spokeswoman, Meghan Gallacher, said: "We continue to support a ban on conversion therapy, including trans conversion therapy, and we will vote for that ban if the legislation comes through the Scottish Parliament."

And in Wales, Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, said the Welsh Government will commission "urgent legal advice on the unilateral action we are able to take to ban conversion 'therapy'".

More time needed for the LGB, not just the T

It is good that Westminster will take more time over the trans aspect of the ban in an attempt to avoid "unintended consequences".

But we know that this risk also extends to the sexual orientation aspect. Trans was dropped because of “fears it could criminalise parents and teachers who question a child’s desire to change”, as one national newspaper put it. But the same risk exists in relation to sexual orientation. Should pastors and parents who question whether someone should embrace a homosexual lifestyle be criminalised? Children and young people are experiencing strong cultural pressures to think of themselves as LGB or T. Why should discussions about the T be allowed while those about the LGB will be criminalised?

It’s not just the trans aspect of the ban that needs careful consideration. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are at stake. They mustn’t get trampled in the rush.

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